While it’s easy for one to question if they have made the right decision by leaving years of comfort and stability behind, I haven’t thought twice about it. Maybe it is the rainbow that arches over the “for sale” sign in our front yard, or the bird’s nest that suddenly grew empty, but something continues to ease my mind. Maybe I am just naive. The act of selling everything we own feels like a religious cleansing, and I am anxious to finally begin this next journey.
Giving up our life in Florida is an enormous undertaking, but fitting what is left into a 4 x 8” Honda Element is either an immense leap of faith, or proof of insanity. Between Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, I notice man-made Florida hills, shaped by heaps of trash. Vultures flood the area, shadowing the sky. The formation of blackness moves over us: swooping, picking, plucking and disposing. I realize that the landfill creates a perfect paradox to the Florida paradise that is sought after by so many, and am reminded why I had to leave.
I can’t help but draw these parallels between Florida and the exhausted landfill that sits before me. Individuals swarm the “sunshine state,” eager to claim their personal utopia. Each resident guarantees that no square inch will remain untouched, devouring any land that suits our needs. In our act to claim beauty, have we created devastation? Are strip malls and rows of pastel houses more beautiful than the roaming panthers, knobby-kneed cypress trees, and flowering air plants?
After visiting Universal Studios, we wander through the Florida Caverns. Even though Alfonso has lived in this state his entire life, he is unaware of this underground world. As for me, I have become so accustomed to freshly painted buildings and perfectly manicured lawns that the raw and natural beauty of the panhandle is like a breath of fresh air.
I stare down the white canvas that sits on my easel. It is intimidating, but as vulnerable as a bull in a butcher shop. The hotel lighting is dim and I make up excuses not to begin. My hesitation is a result in knowing that I will never again make this first stroke. Will it be a success? Will we fail as our families have predicted? Will we even live to tell our story? These paralyzing questions swarm my mind. Finally, I reach out and touch my brush to the canvas. All falls silent.
Through the rearview mirror, I watch Florida disappear on the horizon. For the first time, I am unable to separate feelings of excitement from those of fear. While I am eager to escape the feasting, I am also thankful for what the state has shared with me over the past five years. I wonder. Amongst my search for flawless sunsets and midday rains, have I, like those starving vultures, also taken too much?